Why Are Equine Favoured in Healing Programs?

Noble Character of Equine

People learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses.  Horses are very social animals. They have distinct personalities and temperaments. The factors that make remarkable curative outcomes possible relate directly to the very noble character qualities of equine which is why horses are so valuable in assisted healing strategies. Equine are able to help us work through our personal difficulties. 

Carla states: The first time I was introduced to equine as therapeutic tools, I took some of my clients riding and realized that all of their character weakness and strengths were exposed within the first  ten min of being around the horses.  I was shocked at how quickly the walls came down and the fears were exposed and overcome and confidence restored.  I hardly had to do anything; the horses were responsible for it all.  Years of therapy could not offer such quick results."

Other characteristic of equine make curative outcomes possible.

No One Can Fool a Horse

The first reason, simply put, is that no one can fool a horse.  Equine responses are based on honesty; the horse simply will not respond to manipulative behaviours or lying because they are masters of body language.

Equine Respond Positively to Courage, Compassion, Respect

The second reason leads us to why people are able to look inwardly at themselves when they are around horses.  Next to honesty, every horse wants to feel safe and in essence wants a leader.  From the very first encounter with a human, a horse will respond positively to a leader that displays courage, compassion and respect.  On the other hand a horse will become frightened and unresponsive with someone who is deceitful, antagonistic, loud, disrespectful, demanding, ill-mannered, or domineering.  The client is required to initiate the equine/human relationship, and to illicit a positive response the client must genuinely modify his or her behaviour, tone, disposition, manners, or feelings in order to get the horse to feel safe, calm and willing to cooperate. 

Gaining the trust of a horse is not an everyday experience for most individuals who are suffering, vulnerable, confused, or angry.  Healing begins as soon as the client finds the courage to approach a horse and healing advances another step forward when the client unearths the formula for establishing an honest straight forward relationship with the horse.  Moreover, this relationship is likely one that is quite unfamiliar -not just any ordinary connection, but a communication and connection based on feelings and actions, a partnership built on trust, a bond with a very powerful animal Ė and that is a deeply rewarding experience that has an extremely positive effect on the clientís healing journey.

Horses Have Similar Emotions to People

Thirdly, horses have similar emotions to people.  For example, when a horse loses a foal or a parent it becomes stressed and sad just like we can be.  Horses can exhibit behaviours similar to people, too, especially if treated poorly.  Otherwise a horse is calm, patient, and responsive.  Horses sense what people are feeling and respond as a mirror to the person working with them.  Because horses are in touch with their innate sensory awareness and very adept at reading non verbal clues in body language or moods, they are able to detect in humans the emotional and physiological variations that humans are not always aware of.  The horse responds either negatively or positively to emotions or actions, which teaches the client that his behaviour can affect others.  They mirror exactly what human body language is telling them by reacting immediately to signals that people do not realize they are sending.

Another notable point is that horses do not hold grudges. They are there in the moment with a client, so if the client changes a mood or behaviour the horse will respond accordingly. The same human qualities that are required to gain the trust of a horse are needed to have successful and rewarding human relationships. 

Horses are Large and Powerful

There is another reason we select horses for healing and that is because of their size and demeanour.  Many clients feel overwhelmed by the adverse situations in their life.  They feel that their problems are too large and too powerful to overcome. Like many of the fears and challenges in their lives, horses, too,  are large and powerful. Working with a large and very strong animal, first challenges a client to overcome the fear of even approaching the horse.  Figuring out how to connect with the horse creates natural opportunities for clients to view some of their larger fears as being surmountable and they learn how to grow stronger from that.



What Makes Positive Outcomes Possible

A Horse Requires Communication, Care and Attention

Fourth, a horse requires a lot of care.   When the horse accepts the individual for their honest, compassionate and respectful leadership, a relationship develops and bonding occurs.  During the process of observing, caring for, and working alongside the horse, the client engages in talking, processing feelings, behaviours and patterns.  In the immediate job of caring for or interacting with the horse the client shifts his or her focus from self to the horse.  The ultimate goal for the client is to build skills such as personal responsibility, assertiveness, non-verbal communication, self-confidence, and self-control.   When a person with high emotional needs connects with a horse, a living breathing powerful being and receives its unconditional love this affirmative relationship lessens or removes the personís fear of being emotionally vulnerable. The person also develops new perspective, new hope and new beliefs about self.  Even those showing severe anti-social and aggressive behaviour become calmer and more communicative around horses. 

Being in the Vicinity of Equine Changes the Brain Wave Patterns of Humans

Which brings us to the fifth reason we can expect good outcomes in Equine Assisted Healing.  It has been clinically proven that just being in the vicinity of horses changes the brainwave patterns of humans.  Even a short fifteen to 20 minutes with an equine will help a person feel calmer.  Thatís because of an increase to the amount of endorphins that are released into the body and a decrease in the levels of a chemical called cortisol - which is a hormone that controls stress and arousal.  A tranquil encounter allows a person to focus their attention on the newness of the experience and, for a while at least, to stop fixating on negative personal issues, all of which translates into a positive experience.  Our clients needs positive experiences in their life.

Equine are Not Retaliatory or Counterintuitive

Many of these equine qualities shows that horses are not retaliatory or counterintuitive, so any response from a horse will allow for the client to learn natural and logical consequences, which, of course is one of the premises of Circle of Courage.   This allows for introspection and a number teaching opportunities relating to behaviour and emotions.

Interacting With Equine is Highly Experiential

As a final point, the interaction with a horse is highly experiential and, because the connection and experience is, in most cases, profoundly different for the client in comparison to other relationships the client has experienced, it becomes a very important and reflective encounter.  Furthermore, working with equines is not common for most of clients.  At first they consider it a novelty, then maybe wonderment.  However, given enough exposure to the horse, it does not take long for a clientís feelings to evolve toward self-exploration, awakening, transformation of behaviour patterns, as well as advancing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

The Outdoor Experience

Besides the qualities of the horse, positive curative outcomes are made possible by the overall outdoor experience; the differentiations of the human/equine experience from the conventional counsellor/client face to face, chair to chair experience; the ensuing discussions that are part of the Equine Assisted Healing Program.  If we believe that modifying the habitual patterns of feeling and behaviour that are "encoded" in the right brain is the primary goal of all therapies then Equine Assisted Healing provide the perfect means of transforming behaviour patterns.  For the client being with a horse and being accepted by a horse is a deeply genuine and sensory experience.  One could describe it as right-brain therapy as opposed to talk therapy.

Opportunities to Explore the Experience, the Feelings

In order to have this emotional experience brought to consciousness so that it can be verbalized and processed it is necessary to provide the client with opportunities, during and after sessions, for exploring feelings, behaviours, communication, relationships and to discuss them with the therapy team.  Some of these talks can take place in a rather relaxed outdoor environment which in itself can encourage atypical discussions.  Being out of the sterile, sometimes intimidating environment of a counsellor's office and entering the much more interesting environment of a horse ranch can be especially beneficial for children who live in urban areas and don't often get to enjoy a rural setting.


Helping People to Develop New Behavior

 Pathways to Overcome Challenges

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